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Debt Panel Issues Final Report; Gets 2 Senators' Support

Bowles-Simpson debt commission

The Bowles-Simpson debt commission meets in a Senate hearing room, Dec. 1, 2010. Alex Brandon/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Brandon/AP Photo

The final version of the report from the bipartisan panel on the federal deficit and debt has been out for a few hours and it's getting slammed just as the draft report did for either not having enough teeth or for having too many teeth.

The panel portentously entitled the report: The Moment of Truth.

The panel seeks to reduce the federal debt by $4 trillion dollars over ten years by a series of steps, many of them unpopular.

Among its recommendations, it calls for Congress to cap discretionary spending, double the gas tax, reduce and eliminate many popular tax deductions and raise the Social Security retirement age.

The co-chairs, Democrat Erskine Bowles, a former Clinton White House official, and Republican Alan Simpson, a former senator from Wyoming, are now looking for votes for the report.

Besides their own, they have two senators, Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican, and Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat. Gregg is retiring so doesn't need to worry about any political blowback from supporting the controversial report.

They also have a few other commitments, including Honeywell CEO David Cote. All told, they appear at have at least seven votes.

They need agreement from 14 of the 18 panel members to get their report to a Senate vote. Few expect them to reach 14 votes.

Here's a critical reaction from a scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University whose academics are of the free-market school:

The Commission’s spending caps will likely be changed or ignored without better budget rules, says David Primo, a scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and political science professor at the University of Rochester.

“It's disappointing that the Deficit Commission aimed so low in the area of budget rules,” Primo said. “The rules that the Commission proposed are either internal to Congress or statutory, but these rules can easily be change or ignored, and they have been historically. We saw it in the 1980s with the failed attempts to balance the budget, and we saw it early this year when Congress thumbed its nose at its own PAYGO rules almost immediately after enacting them.”

Primo continues: “The commission’s plan lacks teeth without the right kinds of budget rules. All the proposed caps can be side-stepped. What we need are constitutional budget rules, which are much harder to change and are more readily enforceable.”

And here's a liberal criticism:

Washington, DC - The need for our nation to rebuild the middle class-the real engine of our economy-was completely overlooked in the new job-killing recommendations from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform earlier today. Tamara Draut, Vice President of Policy and Programs at Demos responded with the following statement.

“The final recommendations released today illustrate how out of touch many on the Fiscal Commission, and many of those wielding influence in the Beltway, are with the everyday economic concerns and fears of Americans everywhere. This plan ignores the need for immediate public investments to spur job creation, relies too heavily on discretionary spending cuts, and slashes Social Security at a time when fewer Americans can count on a secure retirement.

“Outrageously, it embarks on a job-killing austerity path next fall (fiscal year 2012), when unemployment is still projected to be near 10 percent. In addition to imperiling the recovery in the short-term, the arbitrarily low debt target also hamstrings our ability to invest in our own economy – as our global competitors are doing.

“Are the $4 trillion Bush tax cuts (the same amount saved by the Commission’s proposals) worth sacrificing America’s place in the world? The Our Fiscal Security blueprint shows that we can rebuild the middle class, invest in our own economy, and put our nation's finances on a sustainable path. The Commission’s recommendations would guarantee that America’s greatest days our behind us.”

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